I’m old. That probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but I’m only just beginning to come to terms with it as it relates to my love of heavy metal. I had big plans to attend four metal shows within two weeks, but I’ve scaled that back. By half. There are a couple of reasons, but my advanced age is a key factor.
First up was the Big Rock Show-type gig I attended last night. There were five bands playing at a big Seattle venue: Butcher Babies, Metal Church (see photo above), Suicidal Tendencies, Amon Amarth, and Megadeth. For those of you who aren’t metal heads, I’ll let those band names soak in for a moment…Yes, I know metal bands have interesting, if not ridiculous, and often provocative names. That’s one of the things we headbangers enjoy. Metal heads will appreciate the diversity of that line-up. While there was no entry from the extreme end of the metal continuum, the range of styles made for a fun evening. (By the way, I can’t say I’ve become a fan of Butcher Babies, but they do have a certain appeal (wink)). I was in the fray, up front close to the stage, for the first four bands’ sets, side-by-side with young metal warrior Stacy, the crushing lead vocalist for a local band undergoing name and line-up changes (more on that in future posts, I’m sure). We banged and thrashed non-stop while, in true metal brotherhood fashion, keeping an eye on each other to ensure neither of us lost our footing or took a shot to the head from an errant elbow. Life is rough in the pit – good friendly violent fun in store for all* – so we watch out for each other.
Amon Amarth was the highlight for both of us. They are purveyors of the sub-genre known as Viking Metal, singing songs of viking life and Norse mythology. It’s a bit silly, but we love it, and the crowd behaved like berserkers, pushing, shoving, jumping, and screaming relentlessly for the entire 45-minute set. If you haven’t lived through a metal pit, you can’t fully appreciate the pure physical joy of it. When the last song was done, the fever broke, and the crowd began to dissipate with fist bumps and shoulder slaps exchanged all around. Just at that moment, I looked at the guy standing in front of me, the same person I had no doubt been pushing up against for the whole set as I pressed towards the stage, and realized it was my old fellow geezer metal head friend Cam. When he saw me, he smiled, extended his hand for a shake, and then thought better of it. Instead, we embraced like two victorious viking warriors. Moments like that are what I live for as a metal fan. Stacy and I retreated from the battlefield to refresh ourselves with fizzy drinks, but, soon enough, it was time to jump back in the pit for Megadeth’s set. That’s when I began feeling my age. Two songs in, I was done. I knew they would be on stage for 90 minutes, and I just didn’t have it in me to stay up front the whole time. I moved back behind the swirling pit of moshers and watched the rest of the show in relative safety and calm. Just a few years ago, I wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to thrash my way through a Megadeth show, but last night I rationalized that I had seen them several times over the last many years, and I didn’t need to prove my loyalty by staying up front. That was my rationale, but the truth is I was tired. Happy, but tired. Old man tired. The show ended at 11 p.m., and I had a long drive home to get to bed. Ugh.
That left three other shows in the next two weeks. I was supposed to go to one this Friday night. It’s a local show, just a few miles from my house rather than a one hour drive like last night’s event, but I’ve decided to skip it. When I read the fine print on the show poster available on-line, I saw that the four-band gig wasn’t going to get started until 9 p.m. and wouldn’t wrap up until 1 a.m. Even for a Friday, that’s way past my bedtime, said the old man. Friday night will be spent at home on the couch with nothing more metal than a silver-colored laptop to keep me entertained.
I am going to see my favorite up-and-coming purveyors of traditional/power metal, Iron Kingdom, next Sunday night, but I’m not going to the Brujeria/Cattle Decapitation show a few days later. Cattle Decapitation is one of my favorite bands from the last couple years, but they are the openers and will probably play a short set (another “old guy” rationalization). I could also explain at length why I’ve decided I don’t need to see Brujeria despite the band’s fascinating on-stage persona of a group of Mexican drug lords singing in Spanish about narco-trafficking, immigration, and politics – yes, non-metal heads, it’s absurd – but the simple fact is that I think it would be unwise to be out late on another school night. Again, I’m old, and I tire easily.
A comedian named Brian Posehn has a great bit about being a middle aged metal head. He said,
I remember being fifteen saying, ‘Dude, I’m going to love heavy metal forever. Metal ’til I’m 60!’ I’m 35 now. I think I’m going to give it one more year.
I’ve always thought that was funny, but I’ve got Posehn beat. I’m 47 now, and I still love heavy metal. I plan to be a metal fan until way past 60. But when it comes to metal shows and moshing, I’m metal ’til about 11:30pm. Good night, my friends – metal-inclined or not – it’s getting late.
*Lyric from “The Toxic Waltz” by Exodus.
(Note: That’s me in the picture, just to the right of the guitar headstock. I’m the old guy).